Just before the lower chamber voted, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius—who has come under fire from Congress this week for her fundraising efforts in support of the law—had an op-ed piece published in the Huffington Post that listed several ways she believes a full repeal of the law would hurt millions of Americans, whether by decreasing access for more than 6 million young adults who are now able to be on their parents' health insurance, denying a tax credit averaging about $4,000 to about 18 million middle-class families next year, or revoking or denying coverage to 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions.
“Millions of Americans have already benefited from its provisions, and millions more are looking forward to benefits that will soon go into effect,” Sebelius wrote in her commentary. “And in November, the American people re-elected the president as an affirmation of the law's promise that no person should go broke if they get sick.”
Maybe so, but an April tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that more than half of Americans (53%) support either continuing to try to change the Affordable Care Act or to stop it altogether, while a troubling 42% said they're unaware of the law's current status. HHS has its work cut out for it as the department embarks on a public education and outreach campaign this summer.
Meanwhile, looking ahead to 2014, are Democrats worried that lack of public awareness about the law, combined with an anticipated bumpy rollout of its major expansions, will hurt their chances at the polls?
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), ranking member on the House Budget Committee, doesn't think so. After the House's repeal vote on Thursday, Van Hollen told Modern Healthcare that millions of Americans are already benefiting from the law and people will learn that that law will provide them with access to quality, affordable healthcare.
“What was today—the 38th time—you heard just a parade of misinformation on the floor of the House about this bill?” Van Hollen said, referring to all of the other repeal-related measures the lower chamber has passed since 2011. “So it's no wonder people are confused. A lot of people are being deliberately confused,” he continued, adding that comments from members on the House floor that the IRS will access people's medical records is “a total bunch of nonsense” and also untrue and misleading. “But you can understand why people are confused,” he added. “But I'm confident we'll be able to implement it.”